Laure Adler and Camille Viéville's new book rewrites art history to include womenHistorians in the News
tags: books, art history, womens history
It has been more difficult for women to succeed in the art world than for men. Historically, women were prevented from attending art school, and for most, it was impossible to find the resources to make art. Excluded as they were from the studios and apprenticeships, it is a miracle that any woman managed to put paint onto a canvas. Those who did were often ignored, their work forgotten or left to decay in attics.
Thankfully, advances have been made. In the late 19th century, women were finally admitted to art schools, and today, more women than men are enrolled. In the last few decades, there have been important retrospectives of the work of artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle, Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago and Paula Rego. Mary Cassatt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cindy Sherman and Frida Kahlo are household names. Since 2012, the prestigious Turner Prize has been awarded to five women, including Lubaina Himid, a woman of color. But there is a troubling historical hangover. The belief that women’s art is somehow less impressive than men’s persists, leading their works to be undervalued. The chain reaction continues as gallerists and curators populate their walls with the moneymakers, who happen to be men.
“The Trouble with Women Artists” seeks to provide a remedy, “reframing the history of art” by pulling together short biographies of 67 female artists, with examples of their work, in one beautifully produced volume. These artists, from different times and countries, represent various strands of art history, contrasting tastes and values, and they range from cubists to big game painters. Crowded together as they are, Muslims next to Christians, Africans next to Asians, all that these artists share is their identity as women, which itself might be a problematic categorization. Some of the artists resist being called “women artists,” after all. As the painter Joan Mitchell says, the true artist must be “neither woman nor man, neither old nor young.” Others have dedicated their work to complicating what it means to be a woman, protesting the restrictions inherent to gender binaries. The authors themselves declare that we should resist characterizing “these artists solely by their sexual identity.”
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